Many people have pointed out the parallels between Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy– Both are young, attractive, and popular. These similarities continue to grow when the State of the Union addresses from 2014 and 1962 are compared. Both speeches discuss mostly domestic events; though foreign conflict is brought up slightly in both. In 1962, the Cold War was in full swing, and Kennedy acknowledged this, saying “Since the close of the Second World War, a global civil war has divided and tormented mankind. But it is not our military might, or our higher standard of living, that has most distinguished us from our adversaries. It is our belief that the state is the servant of the citizen and not his master.” In 2014 the war in Afghanistan is finally coming to a close, and all of the troops are out of Iraq.
A main topic talked about in both speeches was the economy. In 1962, the US’s economy was finally bouncing back, and Kennedy was sure to say that while the country was no longer in the shadow of the recession, there was still work to be done. Similarly, in 2014 we are finally coming back after the devastating Great Recession of 2008. Obama acknowledges this, but also proclaims that the United States needs to continue creating jobs and solidifying the economy. Both speeches mentioned better quality job training and more help for the unemployed.
The speeches also discussed the rights of Americans, though in very different contexts. Kennedy took a step towards racial equality, saying “But America stands for progress in human rights as well as economic affairs, and a strong America requires the assurance of full and equal rights to all its citizens, of any race or of any color.” Obama discussed citizenship in relation to the “American Dream” , proclaiming that “After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship –- the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.”
Healthcare was also a major theme in both speeches. Obama applauded the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, though said that there is still more that can be done. Kennedy also discussed health and welfare, saying “Finally, a strong America cannot neglect the aspirations of its citizens–the welfare of the needy, the health care of the elderly, the education of the young.” Kennedy then brought up the need for social security benefits for the elderly, something that has changed millions of American lives since its beginning.
John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama are both incredibly inspirational men and influential presidents, and their State of the Union speeches in the second year of each’s respective term were remarkably similar. History often repeats itself, a trend that will most likely not end soon.